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Committee to hear Brewer’s state-worker overhaul plan

Gov. Jan Brewer (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Gov. Jan Brewer’s long-awaited personnel reform plan, which will overhaul the state’s employment practices and make it easier to fire government employees, will finally get its first hearing in the Legislature on Thursday.

The House Employment and Regulatory Affairs Committee will hear a strike-everything amendment to HB2571, titled “state personnel system.” Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said the text of the amendment will be released Tuesday.

The plan would eliminate civil service protections for most state employees and make it easier to fire them by making them at-will employees and limiting the appeals process for disciplinary actions.

According to an outline obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times, all new hires, supervisors, attorneys and IT employees would be at-will, or “uncovered,” employees, and current employees would be offered a 5 percent raise to become at-will.

The at-will plan would exempt law enforcement and correctional officers, though it would replace the Law Enforcement Merit Council and replace it with a new five-member Law Enforcement Personnel Board. Brewer’s proposal would limit overtime pay to law enforcement or probation employees, unless mandated by the federal government.

Brewer’s plan would consolidate nine state personnel systems into one and limit the State Personnel Board’s ability to overturn disciplinary actions toward employees. The board would no longer be allowed to modify penalties against employees and can only reverse the penalty if there were no just cause. The plan would also prohibit state agencies from using seniority as a factor when laying off employees.

The plan would authorize agencies to limit employees’ hours if it were needed to implement furloughs. Under the plan, all state agency heads serve at the pleasure of the governor and their preexisting terms of office would be eliminated, except for the Department of Public Safety Director, who would serve concurrently with the governor and could only be fired for cause.

The plan would also eliminate the state law requiring search committees be created to find new directors for the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health Services, Department of Economic Security, Department of Weights and Measures, Department of Revenue and Arizona Department of Administration.

If approved, the plan is scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 29.

The plan is a top priority for Brewer and Benson warned lawmakers not to pass a high-profile package of anti-union bills until after it sent the personnel plan to her desk.

But lawmakers have other priorities as well. Senate President Steve Pierce said the Senate’s top priority is the budget, and that Brewer’s personnel plan will have to wait until it’s finished.

According to the outline, the plan is similar to one proposed by the Governor’s Office in 2011. The 2012 version includes a handful of minor differences.

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